Ah, the good old days. Back when it was a seller’s world. Remember when the buyer had to come to the seller to research their purchase?
What made it so great? Information. The buyer had it and the seller wanted it. And each time the buyer need more information the seller could exact another pound of flesh and exert influence over the seller. Buyers hated it.
But now, with nearly unlimited information on the Internet, the buyer can avoid the seller until much later in the process... after the buyer is armed with all the information they need. It’s as if the buyer has a magical salesperson shield that protects them while vanquishing their sales nemesis.
How the mighty have fallen.
Buyers are now about 60% through their research before they FIRST contact the seller, according to a study by Corporate Executive Board. Most other studies indicate that percentage is higher.
Of course, this new, helpful approach is not just affecting sales. It’s affecting marketing as well. Rather than interrupting prospects with unwanted, irritating outbound messages that can be increasingly tuned out, marketers are turning to inbound marketing.
To deal with this fundamental change in buyer behavior, successful sales organizations are revising their approach. Admitting defeat in the longstanding buyer-seller war, sellers have resorted to the only successful tactic remaining. Being helpful.
Sellers are transforming the way they are selling to this new, well-informed buyer. Would you like to make that successful transition?
Here are the four keys to successfully align your sales approach with inbound marketing.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of the person who influences a purchase. One of the tenets of inbound marketing is identifying the buyer persona and having a deep understanding of them.
Some of the most important things to know about a buyer persona include what triggers a buyer’s search for a solution (like yours), what would make the buyer successful (in the buyer’s mind), what their barriers to buying from you might be, what buying steps they tend to go through and what their decision criteria usually are.
The use of buyer personas is not limited just to marketing, however. With successful sales resulting from inbound marketing, the sales people have just as keen an understanding of whom to influence during a sale.
Knowing this helps sellers not only better understand and empathize with the buyer, it also helps salespeople avoid targeting prospects who are not a good fit.
Successful targeting does not stop with just knowing who the ideal buyer is. It also involves understanding where their buyers are in their journey. Is the buyer in the awareness stage still trying to determine what their problem is? Or have they given a name to their problem and are investigating solutions? Or are they ready to make a buying decision?
Answers to these questions also help the inbound seller to determine which prospects should be more quickly targeted. Understanding the buyer persona helps the salesperson more quickly determine where a buyer is in terms of “fit” and “interest.”
If there is a fit and interest, sales needs to follow up quickly. If there is a fit but low interest, Marketing needs to nurture the lead - and not send it to sales just yet.
By focusing on the buyer persona, the salesperson is able to more efficiently invest their time and resources on the right people at the right times.
So you’ve captured an inbound lead and you’ve determined that outreach to the prospect makes sense. Don’t pick up the phone just yet.
Research the prospect thoroughly to get as much context as possible. One of the ironies of this era is that while it’s never been more difficult to connect with prospects initially, it’s never been easier to find out about them.
Start with company information. Look for things like company size, revenue, what they sell, who they sell to, the operational role of your lead, what other decision makers might be involved, etc. By having this information, you’ll be able to give the prospect a more relevant and personal experience.
Read up on their industry. Understand their business from a news perspective. Find out if they have new funding, are hiring, expanding their territory, have upcoming events, etc. Look on
Use social media. The benefits of social selling are compelling. Social selling expert Jim Keenan reports 72.6 percent of people using social media as part of the sales process outperform their peers and exceed quota 23 percent more often.
Check LinkedIn to read your lead’s profile, see if you have any shared contacts or groups. Check other social media platforms (like Twitter and Quora) to see if they are actively talking with other companies or researching other leads.
Check the lead’s digital body language. Take a look at the lead’s engagement with your company. See what they have downloaded from your site, what pages they have looked at, which emails they are reading and what seems to be resonating with them overall. Are they reading industry information on your site or looking at pricing information?
Still, with all that information, the most important thing to do before picking up the phone to call the prospect is determine the goal of the call.
When you do connect with a prospect, don’t go for the kill right away.
Instead, focus on building rapport. Establish commonality based on the research you’ve done.
Did your research indicate that they have outside interests? (My LinkedIn profile lists these interests and I’ve never heard any of them mentioned in a voice message from a sales person.)
Building rapport is important because people don’t remember the sales process, they remember the experience.
Know your audience. Are you speaking with the decision maker, an influencer or perhaps the researcher (most likely). Tailor the conversation accordingly so that it will resonate with them.
Speak their language. Weave in industry terms and company names that will enable you to establish credibility.
Most important, however – be helpful. Have a tip, educational offer or other content to give to the prospect to let them know you understand their pain and how you can help. The prospect should walk away from the encounter having learned something from you no matter the outcome.
Companies that are using inbound marketing to generate leads are changing the perception of salespeople. For the better.
Successful inbound sales people are more sales educator than sales bully. They are becoming the ultimate listening machines who truly understand their prospect’s pain and challenges.
They are master diagnosticians. Like your doctor. They ask the right questions. They are trusted advisors who are liked and trusted and provide a relevant, personal experience for their prospect, regardless of the outcome.
The way people buy has changed. Dramatically. Sellers no longer have an asymmetrical information advantage over buyers. And that has had repercussions in not just how best to market to people, but also in how to sell to them. Successful sellers are now empathetic, trusted advisors with keen keen listening and teaching abilities.
other graphics: HubSpot